Most of the students here at CIM are avid IMSLP users. According to their website, the International Music Score Library Project “is a project for the creation of a virtual library of public domain music scores based on the wiki principle.” Basically, hundreds of public domain scores may be found within the digital walls of its Petrucci Music Library. Looking for a piano-vocal score to Mozart’s Don Giovanni? Check IMSLP. Needing a flute part to Beethoven 5? Check IMSLP. Want a full score and parts to a Dvořák piano trio? Check IMSLP. The music has all been scanned by various contributors into easily downloadable pdfs. IMSLP’s servers are in Canada; therefore, the organization follows Canadian copyright law. However, not everything in Canada is also public domain in the EU. IMSLP provides information as to what is legal in various countries with a unique coding system, leaving the burden of legality on the user.
Several weeks ago, the Music Publishers Association in the UK shut down IMSLP due to perceived copyright violations. Here is a copy of the MPA email and IMSLP’s response. Preceding this event, the British High Court issued a judgement regarding “online copyright infringement in the Digital Economy Act” which was posted on the MPA site. This is not the first time IMSLP doors have been shuttered. The previous take-down happened several years ago for a much longer period of time and resulted in the copyright coding system described above. Fortunately, the MPA retracted its charge and IMSLP was back up within a few days.
This all points to the shifting and nebulous nature of digital copyright for a digital representation that lies on servers in one continent, but is accessible on the world wide web. Not to mention, what you may rely upon in the digital realm today may very easily be gone tomorrow.
In the meantime, IMSLP keeps marching ahead and is recruiting volunteers to test the development of its new iPad app.